Sustainable Packaging

REES Africa
4 min readMay 16, 2023


“Regardless of what you need to package or ship, there is some eco-friendly option available that can meet your needs.” -NEFAB-

Sustainable or eco-friendly packaging is any form of packaging that has no negative impact on the environment. The design, production and disposal of sustainable packages have no negative impact on the environment because it utilizes recycled, recyclable and biodegradable materials and a low-impact production processes.

The rise in global waste has skyrocketed in the last few years and one-third of these wastes come from unsustainable packaging materials. Plastics take thousands of years to degrade while some organic packaging materials could degrade in 100 days. Most top companies have set and are racing towards achieving their sustainable packaging targets as part of their corporate social responsibility.

Consumers are showing an increased preference for products and services from sustainability-conscious businesses. Many governments have begun to enforce strict regulations on environmentally friendly packaging. With sustainable packaging, your products can have a wider reach and acceptability. Sustainable packaging also improves the image of a brand and sends a clear message of its social responsibility and commitment to sustainability.

Types of Sustainable Packaging

There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to sustainable packaging. Once the environmental sustainability requirement is covered, the rest is up to your creativity and technology.

Here are some sustainable packaging options:

Corrugated Cardboard/Recycled Paper

Paper-based packaging is often regarded as the most sustainable form of packaging. Its production can be easily managed to use minimum raw materials, paper can be engineered to various strengths, qualities and varieties of applications and performance and it is recyclable. Paper packaging may have its limitations as it is often unsuitable for food preservation and for other wet and oily products. Some fragile items may require additional protection. However, paper packaging remains the best packaging choice for most businesses and products.

Organic Shopping Bags

Organic fabrics such as tapioca, hemp, recycled or organic cotton etc can be used instead of plastic bags that often end up in land fills after a single use, causing environmental degradation. They are durable, have multiple uses and are highly biodegradable compared to plastic bags. These shopping bags are reusable so you can buy different types and sizes to suit your unique shopping requirements. There are quite several innovative shopping bags designed to meet your shopping needs.

Edible Film

This is one innovation the food industry would benefit from. Edible films are an eco-friendly alternative to plastics. They are made from natural products such as Chitosan (a sugar) which is a biopolymer made from the shells of crustaceans. Edible films will potentially reduce food wastage and the chemical leaching of plastics. As the name suggests, they are edible which makes them an interesting green packaging innovation.

Biodegradable, Bio-based and Reusable Plastic

Sometimes plastic is the only packaging that suits your product. Biodegradable plastics are not the best but they are the greener alternative of the regular single-use plastics causing the most environmental hazards right now. They require specific atmospheric conditions to safely degrade naturally so if they end up in oceans, marine life will still be at risk. Thus, proper disposal is required. Bio-based plastics or bioplastics, on the other hand, are made from food crops like corn and sugarcane and could be a more suitable option. However, there lies a possibility of competition with human food for its raw materials

There are many other sustainable packaging options with next to zero waste or environmental toxicity such as plant-based packaging, compostable bags, mushroom bags etc. For food and beverages, you can use glass, metals (aluminium), plant-based materials, paper and compostable materials.

Sustainable Packaging Tips: The basic Rs

  • Rethink your product packaging and the brands you patronise.
  • Research on sustainability and packaging trends, costs and strategy
  • Refuse to contribute to environmental degradation
  • Run a packaging audit for all your products and analyze what your competitors are doing
  • Reduce the size of your packages and the resources used for packaging
  • Repair damaged items instead of disposing of them
  • Return promos for packages can encourage recycling and reduce indiscriminate disposal of packages.
  • Review your processes regularly

Sustainable packaging may pose a challenge for some businesses. You must remember that product packaging is as important as the product because it defines your brand and products and gives you a competitive advantage in the market. Unsustainable packaging poses a threat to the environment. Sustainable packaging is no longer a choice but a must-have and must-do for every business.

Writer: Christiana Ugbem

Photo: H&M Sustainable Retail Packaging



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